May 19, 1998 1:10 PM PDT

AltaVista launches financial area

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Digital Equipment-owned search engine AltaVista today launched its Finance Zone, the company's latest attempt to squeeze into the Internet gateway or "portal" space by beefing up its content.

Finance Zone offers an array of free financial information including news, stock quotes, company charts and overviews, and performance charts. The zone also features a pay-per-view option for premium research reports.

Today's announcement comes just one day after Yahoo ended its Portalopoly two-year licensing contract for AltaVista's search engine by signing on search technology firm Inktomi. Yahoo attributed the contract's dissolution to a conflict of interest, noting that AltaVista has been stepping up efforts in pursuing a portal strategy, which would compete with Yahoo.

In the past few months, AltaVista has added a handful of content and technology offerings to its search engine. In addition to free email, AltaVista now boasts its own travel site under a partnership with TheTrip.com, a health information resource with InteliHealth, a foreign language translation service, and a feature with technology provider Centraal called RealName that taps into a database of company names and trademarks and takes users directly to the Web site that has information about the product or company they are seeking.

To further its push into the hyper-competitive portal space, AltaVista plans to unveil an array of content offerings in the near future, such as news links, an entertainment section, and a career development resource, an AltaVista spokesman said.

"They still have a lot of acres to go in terms of building out all the function we speak about, such as chat, broader content areas, shopping, and telephony," said Chris Charron, an analyst at Forrester Research. "They're still behind many of the top players, but I think they're going in the right direction."

Charron also noted that the direction of AltaVista's portal efforts rests heavily on the outcome of the Compaq Computer and Digital merger. It is still unclear what Compaq will do with AltaVista once the merger is finalized. Some have speculated that AltaVista is being built up as a Net gateway to be sold following the merger, given the huge value portals are enjoying on Wall Street. Others say Compaq could use AltaVista as a gateway for its users. For now, however, AltaVista's destiny is "up in the air" and "questionable," said Charron.

"Compaq needs to figure out AltaVista's place in its business," he added. "Once that's done, then they can divert the resources to build the portal they want it to be. But they're stunted right now."

 

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